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I’m Running a Full-Time Content Creator Business Entirely On Free Tools

Free is the best way to start

“You have to spend money to make money”, most people say.

Not true. Not entirely. Not anymore.

I’m running a one-person, full-time content creator business entirely on free tools.

Here’s how.


The why

First, the reason.

I could utilize multiple paid tools. Paid tools are great, many provide amazing functionality.

But they can get expensive, too. Email marketing, especially.

ConvertKit*, one of the most popular email marketing tools, costs $15 on their cheapest monthly plan for up to 300 subscribers. Cross 1000 subs, you’ll already be paying $49 per month. And it’s not even their top-level tier.

That’s nothing compared to large email lists. With 10,000 subs, you’re looking at $120 a month, with 50,000 at $320.

ConvertKit is a great tool, worth the price for many. But it’s a chunk of cash. Competitors are cheaperBeehiiv costs you a flat $99 for their top plan. Considerably less.

Whatever you choose, you need the basics, and those can be free as well.


The basics

What are the basic necessities to run your business? This is one important question to figure out.

For me, it’s been these big three:

  1. An outlet
  2. An email list
  3. A shop

For many creators, that’s the only threesome needed.

My outlet is Medium. Others prefer a social media network like Twitter, a video platform like YouTube, or a Substack publication.

While I dabble with all of the above, the main outlet of my solo business has been Medium for nearly 3 years now. It’s where I publish my content, where most of my followers reside, and where the majority of my traffic to other key business parts is generated.

The email list is the backbone of my business. I gain followers on Medium (and elsewhere), I keep true fans in my email lists.

Yes, plural, because I have more than one email list. It’s divided into newsletters, email marketing, and product marketing.

With content and email lists, I drive readers to my Gumroad store. This is where all free and paid products live & where I grow my customer list (a crucial step).


Tools

My big three free tools:

  1. Medium*
  2. Substack*
  3. Gumroad*

Yes, I do count Medium as free here, because to write and earn I don’t need the membership. I do pay for it to read, not to write.

Substack* is free, my main newsletter resides there. It’s a great newsletter tool. It lacks email automation. I use Gumroad* and EmailOctopus* for that.

Gumroad is free for unlimited products as well as unlimited email marketing automation. This is huge. Obviously, Gumroad takes a fee from my earnings.


Additional tools

I host a blog on WordPress (org) which is also free. I do pay for a domain, however. This, again, is optional. I don’t need that blog or domain. It mainly serves as a backup for my Medium account.

I write on additional free platforms like Vocal and NewsBreak. I have additional email lists with EmailOctopus* & ConvertKit* on their free tiers.

I use Notion to manage and organize my entire business. The free option has always been enough. It may be the most important tool in my toolbox.

That’s it.


The bottom line

I’ve been running my solo business alongside my 9-to-5 for 3 years with free tools. I began using some paid tools in the past, only to realize that I didn’t need them yet.

I still don’t.

I run my full-time creator business on the same free tools now. I could upgrade to a paid email marketing tool, which would make sense. I might do it in the future. I could switch from Gumroad to a cheaper option once the 10% fee outweighs the benefits.

Other than that, I’m good with free options.

“You have to spend money to make money”, most people say.

Only if you want to…

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